AUTUMNAL HAPPINESS | Or 10 perfect reasons to fall in love with fall
It grows each year: my love for fall.
Not to go too dark on you here but it shows us that life is somewhat fleeting. Autumn's arrival can take us by surprise, all dark and gloomy, making us swap flip-flops for boots. Bye-bye balmy nights and hello wind whipping around the house. The ground is covered in leaves and the outside world feels cold and uninviting. But: it’s also a time for truly special moments of happiness that only this time of year brings. Fall is colorful and mystical and that little bit quieter, mellow and full to the brim with indulgence.
So here they are, my 10 favorite reasons to love the fall. Replication highly recommended.
1. The first candle
Between April and September, I don’t allow myself to light candles inside the house. Not a single flame in sight. Why? Because nothing makes me happier than lighting that very first candle of the season when the nights start to draw in earlier and earlier.
Celebrate with a brand-spanking new candle. Add a sprig of rosehip, some apples and chestnuts.
I even like the smell of the match striking and the way the flame dances. And I love the calm that descends on the warmly lit room.
2. A gluttony of dahlias
Dahlia cutting fields may not be in easy reach for everyone but they’re definitely worth a little road trip. Nothing beats walking through a sea of gloriously bright colors, as far as the eye can see. Yellow, purple, orange and every color in between, from stripey to single- or multi-colored. All accompanied by that super-clear dark-blue sky so typical for this time of year.
The queen of fall blooms from late summer all the way to the first frost. And there’s little old me, right in the middle of a gluttony of blossoms and totally flummoxed where to start. Which are the ones that will replicate the joy I’m feeling right now when I bring them home and distribute vases full of dahlias all over the house?
3. That first fire
Very similar to my first candle, it’s a ritual.
Bring in the logs. Remove critters (best to do that BEFORE bringing them in).
Build up a fire stack in order of small, medium to large wood. Strike a match and watch as the flames take hold. I swear it’s better than watching TV!
Case in point: even the teenagers in this house step away from their smartphones for that moment.
4. The first oven-baked pumpkin
One of my all-time favorites – delicious as a main course but also wonderful served up as a side dish. Super easy, super scrumptious.
· 1 Red curi squash
· A handful of grapes
· Ginger (about the size of a thumb)
(up to taste – I use at least 8 cloves but that may be too many for some)
· 100ml olive oil
· 100ml orange juice
· Salt & Pepper
· Ground cloves
· A pinch of cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 200C (390F). Quarter your pumpkin, deseed and cut into slices (or half-moons) about 1cm thick. Don’t peel it!
In a bowl, combine the pumpkin with a dash of olive oil, orange juice, grated ginger, finely chopped garlic, salt, pepper and spices.
Spread out on an oven tray, ideally in just one layer. Bake for around 40 to 50 minutes until nicely browned and soft. For the last 10 minutes, throw the grapes in with the pumpkin.
If you like Feta cheese, you can add some in with the grapes.
5. My first hot chocolade
Usually, the thought of hot milk makes me run a mile. Even when I was little, the mere thought of it made me gag. And that’s not even mentioning the potential of skin forming on the top. Yuck!
BUT. Huge but.
The first (and last!) hot chocolate of the year is a MUST. With froth. And mini marshmallows. Away with the likes of Nesquick – this requires the real deal cocoa, with plenty of sugar.
6. Hot water bottle & sofa
Now take that hot chocolate and proceed straight to the sofa. Ideally in front of the mesmerizing fire, with a hot water bottle (or possibly a cat) for extra-comfort and a book. A really good book.
7. Orange, yellow and red allowed
If you know me a little by now you know that I’m generally more of a white, purple, blush or bright pink and blue kinda girl.
Fall is a different kettle of fish though, from bright and colorful leaves to rosehip reds. Orange dahlias happily mix in with purple asters and the yellow blossoms of the Jerusalem artichoke (that’s withstanding all my efforts to get rid of it) tower over all of it. Yellow quince, orange and red leaves. And d’you know, I think it’s simply marvelous. They even help make the last of the autumnal sun shine that little bit brighter.
8. Rediscovering my winter wardrobe
It’s like going shopping, only much cheaper. The summer dresses and bathing suits get packed away until next year – enter woolly jumpers and thick socks, scarves and hats. New looks to try out and, between you, me and the flagpole: thick jumpers expertly hide a little extra winter padding.
9. Lawn mower hibernation
I’ve got to say, while I adore the smell of freshly cut grass, I don’t love the lawn mower quite as much. It looms over me throughout the summer, a constant reminder of everything that still needs to be done (and that nobody volunteers to do).
All that noise as you run it around the garden, ideally in stripes and as close to the edges as possible, otherwise they need to be trimmed by hand. Before I unleash the beast, I collect all the snails and slugs out of the tall grass. And if you’re the owner of a dog you’ll know that horrible moment when you realize you’ve ‘missed a bit’ and run over a stealthy poop. The smell!
Branches get stuck in the blade; my feet and legs are covered in grass clippings and I’m sweating profusely. Come on Sarah, only a few more rounds to go, you can do it.
Done! It’s done. My lawn mower (a true companion, despite the love/hate relationship) can go into hard earned and well-deserved hibernation. Off it goes, into the very deepest corner of the garage and I’m feeling that little bit lighter, and all without a trace of guilt.
10. Taking stock
Time to bring out the big guns, aka my colossal notebook. I sit down and take a moment to remember spring and summer. What were my favorites of the year? Which ones turned out to cause me worries? What would I change or do differently? Are there plants that would do better elsewhere? Are there gaps I need to fill or flower beds that could do with being thinned out? What would I like more of?
So, I return to Point 6, snuggle up and write down my thoughts. Sometimes I go back to notes I’ve made in previous years, leaf through my gardening books and get excited about what next year will bring.
When it’s time for the joy of gardening to start all over again. To get muddy fingers digging and planting and nursing and enjoying.
What are your fall-favorites? How do you keep the summer-blues at bay and immerse yourself in the colder season instead? I’d love to hear it!
Love from the autumnal Cottage Garden,